Key moments in Twin Falls School District superintendent Wiley Dobbs' career:
1976: Graduates from Twin Falls High School.
1983: Graduates from Boise State University with bachelor’s degrees in social science and physical education. Hired at Bear Lake High School in Montpelier as teacher and head wrestling coach.
1984: Hired at Vera C. O’Leary Junior High School to teach world geography and English. Over the course of four years, Dobbs also coaches wresting, volleyball and track and is 1986-88 athletic director.
1988: Hired at Twin Falls High, teaching American government, English and literature. Over two years, he also is head wrestling coach and junior varsity volleyball coach.
1989: Earns master’s degree in education from College of Idaho.
1990: Hired as principal of Magic Valley High, an alternative school.
1992: Becomes O’Leary principal after Bruce Slama resigns for a Washington job.
1994: Twin Falls schools respond to a rash of cases of students bringing weapons to school. The School Board expels seven students for bringing guns or knives; three are from O’Leary.
“It could be an anomaly, it could be that — gosh, just watch some TV one night and see what these kids are being introduced to just by the media,” Dobbs tells the Times-News. “Twenty years ago the media didn’t glamorize gang violence like they do now.”
But he says crime at O’Leary is under control.
1995: Organizes a team from O’Leary for the American Cancer Society’s 18-hour Relay for Life. Dobbs, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor in remission after 1994 treatment, raises the most money as an individual, and O’Leary’s team raises more than $4,900 — the most of any team.
1995: Coaches children in the Twin Falls/CSI Judo Club, preparing for a junior national judo tournament in Irvine, Calif.
1996: Helps O’Leary student council members with a landscape project in memory of ninth-grader Sean Miller, who died of bone cancer.
1997: Idaho congressmen visit O’Leary to honor 19 students who received Congressional Awards. Idaho has the second-largest number of recipients in the U.S. at the time, and half are O’Leary students. A Times-News story says Idaho ranks well partly because of Dobbs’ enthusiasm.
1997: Named the Outstanding Middle Level Principal of the Year by Idaho’s Region IV Middle Level Association.
1998: Helps students cope with the death of 12-year-old Eryc Lancaster, who collapsed during a soccer team practice and later died of apparent heart failure. O’Leary seeks donations to create a memorial soccer field.
1998: Named the Idaho Secondary School Principal of the Year for 1999.
“He’s really nice. He listens to everything kids have to say,” then-13-year-old Kassidy Smith tells the Times-News.
1999: Holds a 20th birthday celebration for O’Leary.
1999: Writes a Times-News op-ed about the changing education landscape.
“The Industrial Revolution has given way to the Information Age,” Dobbs writes. “High levels of education are required for the vast majority of our students if they are to fit successfully into the ‘Work Force 2000.’ I predict that within 10 years, it will be obvious which public schools have successfully engaged in systematic change and improvement and which have not. The gap in student achievement will be unpleasantly conspicuous.”
1999: School administrators react to a school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where 13 people are killed and more than 20 wounded.
“We have not just had even a moment to hardly breathe,” Dobbs says.
1999: O’Leary mourns the death of popular teacher and coach Mark Briere. A football field is later dedicated in his honor.
“You won’t find a sweeter guy in the world,” Dobbs says about his longtime friend and colleague. “He would give you the shirt off his back.”
1999: Magic Valley schools implement security changes for a new school year as a result of the Columbine shooting. At O’Leary, students may bring backpacks to school but must leave them in lockers during the day.
2000: Graduates from University of Idaho with educational specialist degree.
2000: Invited by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley to attend a summit on leadership in Washington, D.C.
2000: Hired as director of operations for Twin Falls School District after Dale Thornsberry’s retirement.
2001: Coordinates an event to promote an Olympic Torch Relay through Twin Falls for 2002 Winter Olympics.
2001: Twin Falls School District installs security cameras in school buildings and considers metal detectors. A citizens committee opposed metal detectors earlier that year — before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“We have to recognize now there are things we can’t predict — dangerous elements that we intend to protect our kids from,” Dobbs says.
2001-02: Receives the Idaho Middle Level Association State Educator of the Year award.
2002: Promotes a proposal for a 20-mph speed limit for all school zones, as a member of Twin Falls Traffic Safety Commission.
2002: School Board struggles to set goals with unknowns about a federal law — the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The law requires every student to eventually demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests. Dobbs says it could take more than a year to fully understand the law’s implications.
2003: Receives “Spirit of Idaho” award for service as Idaho Congressional Award board member.
2003: Named interim superintendent at 44; the one-year position replaces outgoing superintendent Terrell Donicht.
2003: Under Dobbs, the district hires a consultant to help lower the high school dropout rate. The consultant estimates 20 to 25 percent of the district’s students drop out between their freshman and senior years.
2003: School Board revises a policy for students who participate in extracurricular activities, holding them to a higher standard. They must take a full load of classes and earn passing grades. 2004: Opposition brews among parents about submitting Twin Falls High students to random drug testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities. Later that year, parents Joe and Denise Stanzak drop a lawsuit against the district over random testing, citing lack of time to pursue the case.
2004: Receives three-year superintendent contract with a $90,000 yearly salary — the same rate he received as interim superintendent.
2004: Is appointed to statewide committee to evaluate Idaho Standards Achievement Tests to make sure they’re fair and valid; resigns later in the year.
“It smacked too much of politics and not enough of rolling up sleeves and getting to work,” he says.
2004: Completes his U of I doctoral degree in education. His dissertation concludes many school superintendents support the goals of No Child Left Behind but need more money to make the changes.
2004: Voters approve a boundary change for Twin Falls School District, putting some children in the Filer School District.
2005: Teacher contract negotiations turn contentious. About 150 people gather in front of the district administration building wearing orange ribbons, a symbol of solidarity for teachers.
Twin Falls Education Association and four teachers file a class action lawsuit against the School Board and Dobbs, alleging bad faith bargaining and withholding of salary increments.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the union and its attorney from Boise would characterize the repeated positive efforts over the past several months by the board, the district office team and me as bad faith,” Dobbs says.
Associated Press reports about half of Idaho’s teachers are working without a contract and many blame the state Legislature for failing to give school districts enough money for teacher salaries.
The school district later asks a judge to dismiss all allegations that the district is withholding employee pay increases.
Federal mediation over teacher contract negotiations fails initially. Finally, after six months of negotiations, the district and Twin Falls Education Association reach an agreement.
2006: Twin Falls voters approve a $49.7 million school bond issue — one of the largest in Idaho history — to build a second high school, later named Canyon Ridge.
2007: School officials express concerns about electronic devices such as iPods and cellphones distracting students at school. District policy bans students’ electronic devices from school property during school hours but leaves final discretion up to school principals.
“Generally the rule is to keep them out of sight,” Dobbs says. “And most buildings have a policy that a cellphone going off in class will be confiscated, and a student or parent will have to come get the phone after school.”
2007: The $49.7 million bond issue to build Canyon Ridge High and improve existing schools isn’t enough to cover costs. The original estimate for the high school was $37.6 million, but the project runs about $10 million over budget.
2008: Voters pass a $33 million plant facilities levy — $3.3 million per year over 10 years — to help maintain school district buildings. It’s a measure voters supported for many decades before that.
2008: School Board approves new high school zones, in preparation for Canyon Ridge High opening.
2009: The district faces state budget cuts during economic recession. The School Board changes its junior and high school schedules to seven shorter class periods.
“These are not ordinary times,” Dobbs says. “This is a crisis situation.”
2009: School Board says it has no plans to declare a financial emergency.
2009: The district switches its junior highs to sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools. Ninth-graders move to high schools.
2010: In a budget crisis affecting school districts across Idaho, the district prepares for $3.57 million in cuts — 8.4 percent of its budget.
“I don’t think, given the magnitude, that there will be no disruption, but we do know that things are going to get better,” Dobbs says. “I think that as we go through this we need to be patient with each other and demonstrate good character and remember that we are going to get through this together.”
Later that year, the School Board declares a financial emergency and approves a shortened 2010-11 school calendar, with 14 furlough days for employees and eight fewer schooldays for students.
2010: Dobbs receives the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
2011: Suffers a heart attack at 52. About a month later, transitions back into work.
2012: After the district spent more than $1 million in carryover funds over the previous year to balance its budget, the fund balance is “dangerously low,” Dobbs says.
2012: The district tries to decipher a new five-star rating system for Idaho schools by the Idaho Department of Education. The emphasis on student growth, rather than strictly achievement, is a good change, Dobbs says.
2012: Idaho awards Hewlett-Packard an eight-year, $180 million contract. Under Students Come First reforms, every Idaho public high school teacher and student is slated to receive an HP ProBook 440 notebook.
2012: Voters overturn all three state Students Come First education reform laws. Dobbs says he’s not sure what will happen with current teacher contracts.
2012-13: Named AASA/IASA Idaho Superintendent of the Year.
2013: Named honorary chairman for Twin Falls Relay for Life. “Keep focused on the good parts of your life,” he tells cancer survivors.
2013: The school district and Twin Falls Education Association struggle to reach consensus during teacher contract negotiations and bring in a federal mediator.
2013: A facilities committee says the district needs two new elementary schools and a new middle school within four years.
2013: Dobbs is named Idaho’s Superintendent of the Year by the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
2014: Voters approve a nearly $74 million bond measure to build three new schools — two elementaries and a middle school — and pay for other facility projects.
2014: Dobbs is among a 17-member team to provide input to new state superintendent of public instruction Sherri Ybarra as she prepares for office.
2015: Teacher contract negotiations focus on a new state career ladder law, designed to boost teacher pay over five years to help address a teacher shortage.
2015: Receives the Idaho Middle Level Association Bev Bradford Distinguished Service Award.
2016: The community mourns the death of longtime O’Leary teacher and coach Marjie Atkins from a malignant brain tumor. The school later names its track in her honor.
“We’re just all so saddened to lose Marjie so soon,” says Dobbs, who was principal at O’Leary when he hired Atkins. After pausing to hold back tears, he adds: “It was a life well lived.”
2016: Students and staff at two Twin Falls schools are on edge and security is tight after two gun-related crimes.
Vason Widaman, a ninth-grader at Canyon Ridge High, is killed in a drive-by shooting in a neighborhood near the school. That comes less than 24 hours after a student discharges a handgun in a Robert Stuart Middle School classroom. Police call it an “accidental discharge” and arrest three students; no one is injured.
2016: Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools open.
2016: Dobbs announces he’ll retire Sept. 1, 2017.
2016: The district hides its decision to give support services director Clara Allred a more than $94,000 payout as part of a separation agreement. “I’m sorry that it is of the confidential nature it is and we can’t comment,” Dobbs says.
March 2017: Dobbs wins a nationwide Inspiration Award, given to one adult volunteer each year who helps youth earn a Congressional Award.
April 2017: Brady Dickinson, director of operations for the district, is named the next superintendent, to start July 1. Dobbs plans to stay until Sept. 1 to help with the transition.
Sources: Dobbs’ resume and Times-News archives